Saturday, December 24, 2011

our handmade world

"We didn’t have a storyboard. We just took for granted that each of us would do our part. When Robert asked me to come over to shoot the film on Bond Street, he said he had a surprise for me. I laid a cloth on the floor, placing the fragile white dress Robert had given me, my white ballet shoes, Indian ankle bells, silk ribbons, and the family Bible, and tied it all in a bundle. I felt ready for our task and walked to his loft.

I was elated to see what Robert had prepared for me. It was like coming home to Brooklyn when he would transform a room into a living installation. He had created a mythic environment, draping the walls with white netting with nothing before it but a statue of Mephistopheles.

I set my bundle down and Robert suggested that we take MDA. I was not really sure what MDA was but wholly trusted Robert so I agreed. As we entered the film, I wasn’t really conscious of whether it had an effect or not. I was too focused on my role in the project. I put on the white dress and the ankle bells, leaving the bundle open on the floor. These things were on my mind: the Revelations, Communication. Angels. William Blake. Lucifer. Birth. As I talked, Lisa rolled film and Robert took stills. He wordlessly guided me. I was an oar in the water and his the steady hand.

At one point, I decided to pull down the netting, in effect destroying what he created. I reached up and gripped the edge of the net and froze, physically paralyzed, unable to move, unable to speak. Robert rushed toward me and put his hand on my wrist, holding it there until he felt me relax. He knew me so well that without saying a word he communicated that everything was all right.

The moment passed. I wrapped the net around me, and looked at him, and he shot that moment in motion. I took off the fragile dress and the bells from my ankles. I put on my dungarees, field marshal boots, my old black sweatshirt–my work clothes–and gathered everything else in the cloth, and threw the bundle over my shoulder.

In the narration of the film, I had explored ideas that Robert and I often discussed. The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.

I left Mephistopheles, the angels, and the remnants of our handmade world, saying, “I choose Earth.”

- from "just kids" by patti smith

diamond patterns

(image sources here)